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Africa and the West | EuroTrib by Richard Drayton on Aug 20th, 2005 |
On Jerome's example, I offer here as a diary my article in THE GUARDIAN of August 20, 2005
The wealth of the west was built on Africa's exploitation
Britain has never faced up to the dark side of its imperial history
Britain was the principal slaving nation of the modern world. In The Empire Pays Back, a documentary broadcast by Channel 4 on Monday, Robert Beckford called on the British to take stock of this past. Why, he asked, had Britain made no apology for African slavery, as it had done for the Irish potato famine? Why was there no substantial public monument of national contrition equivalent to Berlin's Holocaust Museum? Why, most crucially, was there no recognition of how wealth extracted from Africa and Africans made possible the vigour and prosperity of modern Britain? Was there not a case for Britain to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves?
These are timely questions in a summer in which Blair and Bush, their hands still wet with Iraqi blood, sought to rebrand themselves as the saviours of Africa. The G8's debt-forgiveness initiative was spun successfully as an act of western altruism. The generous Massas never bothered to explain that, in order to benefit, governments must agree to "conditions", which included allowing profit-making companies to take over public services. This was no gift; it was what the merchant bankers would call a "debt-for-equity swap", the equity here being national sovereignty. The sweetest bit of the deal was that the money owed, already more than repaid in interest, had mostly gone to buy industrial imports from the west and Japan, and oil from nations who bank their profits in London and New York. Only in a bookkeeping sense had it ever left the rich world. No one considered that Africa's debt was trivial compared to what the west really owes Africa.
There are many who like to blame Africa's weak governments and economies, famines and disease on its post-1960 leadership. But the fragility of contemporary Africa is a direct consequence of two centuries of slaving, followed by another of colonial despotism. Nor was "decolonisation" all it seemed: both Britain and France attempted to corrupt the whole project of political sovereignty.
It is remarkable that none of those in Britain who talk about African dictatorship and kleptocracy seem aware that Idi Amin came to power in Uganda through British covert action, and that Nigeria's generals were supported and manipulated from 1960 onwards in support of Britain's oil interests. It is amusing, too, to find the Telegraph and the Daily Mail - which just a generation ago supported Ian Smith's Rhodesia and South African apartheid - now so concerned about human rights in Zimbabwe. The tragedy of Mugabe and others is that they learned too well from the British how to govern without real popular consent, and how to make the law serve ruthless private interest. The real appetite of the west for democracy in Africa is less than it seems. We talk about the Congo tragedy without mentioning that it was a British statesman, Alec Douglas-Home, who agreed with the US president Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 that Patrice Lumumba, its elected leader, needed to "fall into a river of crocodiles" .
Kwame Nkrumah regarded Lumumba as a fervent nationalist working to maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country. Washington, by contrast, considered Lumumba as the main obstacle to stability, and as perhaps more dangerous than even Fidel Castro. That Lumumba requested and received the assistance of the Soviets proved to the United States that he encouraged and facilitated the communist penetration of Africa. Eisenhower found it difficult to hide his dislike for the Congolese leader, wishing at one point that he "fall into a river of crocodiles." While Nkrumah championed Lumumba's legitimacy as Prime Minister, Washington notified the CIA office in Léopoldville to give Lumumba's enemies every conceivable support in excluding him from any possibility of leadership.
promoted by Jerome, for obvious reasons... a few small edits made on the front page
Katanga: Tensions in DRC's Mineral Heartland
Israeli Activists Demand Mossad Documents Concerning UN Secretary General's Fatal African Plane Crash
Title of Dissertation: THE EYES OF THE WORLD WERE
WATCHING: GHANA, GREAT BRITAIN, AND
THE UNITED STATES, 1957-1966
In a speech that simultaneously criticized the policy of the West in the Congo and applauded the efforts of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, Nkrumah fully voiced his non-aligned policy and thoroughly aggravated officials in Washington. Although the speech can be viewed in retrospect as having "reflected a remarkable consistency," many of Nkrumah's positions more closely resembled Kruschev's than Eisenhower's. To make matter worse, Kruschev rose to shake Nkrumah's hand at the end of the speech."
Within hours, Secretary of State Christian Herter, having neither heard nor read the speech in its entirety, commented to the New York Times that Nkrumah had revealed himself as "very definitely leaning toward the Soviet Bloc." Nkrumah was "incensed with Americans as a result of Herter's remark," and commented that Herter was "the last person from whom he would have expected the comment."
Back in Accra, diplomatic staff at the UK High Commission reported on their efforts to calm and quiet the angry US Ambassador who agreed fully with Herter's assessment of the speech. British officials believed that numerous misunderstandings between the United States and Ghana on the Congo situation had provoked the invective, indicating a distaste that America was "harking back to [a] Dulles line" of those who aren't with us are against us.
Another public but less acrimonious disagreement between Ghana and the West occurred eleven weeks later, when the UN considered the "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples." The resolution maintained that colonialism, by its very nature of subjecting people to foreign domination, violated human rights and thus the UN Charter. The United States abstained at Eisenhower's direction. The President was no doubt influenced by a telegram from Harold Macmillan expressing his shock that Eisenhower would consider supporting such a "nauseating document."
DRC: How the CIA got Patrice Lumumba | Africa Report - Jan. 2021 |
On 17 January 1961, just sixty years ago, the first legally elected prime minister of the DRC was assassinated after being overthrown with help from Washington. A sinister episode that Larry Devlin, the 'Mr. Congo' of the CIA from 1960 to 1967, would reveal half a century later in his fascinating book, ' Chief of Station, Congo: Fighting the Cold War in a Hot Zone.'
The West's Colonial War Narrative on Russia and Ukraine wasn't invented from the top of the head of one Joe Biden ...
The Empire Strikes Back | CEIMSA - August 2005 |
Today, many of us living amidst the debacle of superpowers have witnessed the line between realism and surrealism all but vanish. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger --these names alone are enough to map the trajectory of American democracy over the past decades. The new battle cry of the militant ruling classes is : "War on the poor!" (both at home and abroad). The widely acknowledged shortcomings of Global Capitalism have given rise to tactics such as preventative wars and national security legislation which were conceived as a way to stabilize an increasingly unsteady political economy.
Another tactic essential to this utopian project of defending capitalism in the face of crises is the rewriting of history in conformity with familiar Hollywood themes like cowboys & Indians, or like heroic American war stories with ultimate victories ... Fictions such as these must be indistinguishable from real history if social class conflicts, caused by economic inequalities and political injustices, are to be successfully ignored by nations of consumers, and even then we must allow that the intellectual disarming of a people does not always guarantee their absolute submission to a "new order".
Defenders of the private profit motive (that shibboleth of capitalist status quo, now enshrined by neo-liberal ideologues who give eloquent testimony to the famous French axiom : plus ça change plus c'est la même chose) are doomed to fail, not because they will be successfully challenged and defeated by socialists or some other organized opposition, but because the environment in which we all live --progressives, as well as conservatives and reactionaries-- is being destroyed by the aggressive political economy which largely governs our everyday behaviour.
Authoritarian capitalism, with its focus on social control and consumerism, is self-defeating. As an economic system it is ultimately incompatible with life on this planet. To quote Oscar Wild, when commenting on the wallpaper in the dismal hotel room in Paris where he lay dying : "One of us must go!" In today's world, the choice is between humanity or capitalism.
Authoritarian Capitalism and Its Impact on Business
The global political order has undergone multiple sea changes in recent decades. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, liberal democracy was widely seen as the "End of History." "Free market capitalism looked to have permanently carried the day," and it was thought to be only a matter of time until the world converged on this model. By the 2010s, the tide had turned, and a democratic recession shattered this liberal-democratic triumphalism and the assumptions that had underpinned it.
The earthquakes of Brexit and Trump are two manifestations of the deeper structural forces which have rendered liberal democracies increasingly unstable, divided, and polarized. Meanwhile, China's rise suggests an alternative model that embraces capitalism while rejecting or severely restricting political and civil liberties. Without democracy, Singapore has risen to become one of the world's most prosperous and dynamic economies. In both Hungary and Poland, democratic backsliding has taken place under right-wing populist rule.
The authoritarian capitalist model is contentious. Proponents of liberal democracy maintain that the authoritarian capitalist model is dysfunctional. Prominent scholars claim that democracy is better for growth and that growth in authoritarian countries such as China will run out of steam unless they liberalize politically. A decade ago, one leading commentator wrote, "Free markets provide those who participate in them with long-term advantages that state capitalism can't match."
Related reading ....
What Happened In Stockholm | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Sept. 1972 |